- Pan-Asian Sports and the Emergence of Modern Asia, 1913–1974 by Stefan Huebner, and: Japanese Pan-Asianism and the Philippines from the Late Nineteenth Century to the End of World War II: Going to the Philippines Is Like Coming Home? by Sven Matthiessen, and: Asianisms: Regionalist Interactions and Asian Integration eds. by Marc Frey and Nicola Spakowski
Since the 1970s, the field of Pan-Asian studies has blossomed with the publication of numerous case studies on individual former colonies, now independent countries, and works on transnational themes such as forced labor, collaboration, and Japanese trained armies. Much of this research highlights how the grim reality of Japanese subjugation and exploitation in wartime Southeast Asia contradicted the lofty rhetoric of Pan-Asian liberation and dazzling promises of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. There are also important studies that examine the domestic discourse on Pan-Asianism in Japan—how it evolved from the late nineteenth century up through [End Page 325] the 1931–1945 Pacific War and what role it played in terms of mobilizing support to justify the expansion of the ongoing war with China into Southeast Asia. Pan-Asian thought was Japan-centric, but not monolithic. Various individuals and institutions disagreed on the meaning of the concept and how Pan-Asianism might be realized. Revisionists in Japan cling to a myth that noble intentions simply went awry or were derailed by the losing war effort, but such hopeful interpretations have been thoroughly debunked.
The three books under review manifest the growing diversity of Pan-Asian studies while expanding its chronological and spatial horizons. By concentrating on the world of sporting events and the regional interactions they facilitated before and after the Pacific War, Stefan Huebner significantly extends the scope of Pan-Asian analysis beyond Northeast Asia and into the decades of the Cold War. Sven Matthiessen illuminates the development of contested assumptions about the Philippines within Japan's domestic conversation on Pan-Asianism as well as the challenges this ideology faced in an inhospitable Southeast Asian context. The diverse topics selected by Marc Frey and Nicola Spakowski in their edited volume explore regional interactions, common agendas, and notions of Asian integration while also problematizing concepts of Asianism.
Huebner's seminal Pan-Asian Sports and the Emergence of Modern Asia, 1913–1974 enriches the discourse considerably. This ambitious monograph provides a detailed analysis of sports competitions in Asia over a six-decade period in the twentieth century. Huebner guides readers through key competitions including the Far Eastern Championship Games of 1913 through 1927, the Western Asiatic Games in 1934, and the Asian Games held between 1951 and 1974. He suggests that these competitions did not actually succeed in nurturing Pan-Asian identity or fostering regional networks. Indeed, the YMCA-sponsored Far Eastern Games did more to impart Western and Christian values. Yet in the post–World War II era, these events acted as more than venues for competition, providing high-profile opportunities for nation branding and the assertion of modern identities.
The book is organized chronologically rather than thematically, with chapters focused on specific games. There is considerable detail on each of the games, including the organizers, venues, infrastructure, ceremonies, and agendas, which sheds light on not just the logistical challenges, but also the political context of the sports competitions. Huebner meticulously elucidates the larger sociocultural impact of sporting events and how they illuminate contested identities and political tensions within host countries and across the region.
Arguably, the most interesting chapters cover the Asian Games, which took place against the backdrop of the Cold War. The prominence of Western influences ironically led to the selection of an English motto and the playing...